Recenttechnologies have revolutionized human interactions. Resultingimpacts are felt in areas such as warfare and national security,health care and transport systems. One of the recent yetcontroversial technological issues has been on the usage of droneaircraft also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Drones areflying robots which can be controlled using certain software with theaid of GPS. Sandbrook (2015) defined them as airborne devices thatare self-propelled and do not require an onboard pilot. Although theissue of drone usage recently gained global attention, it is evidentthat its history can be traced back to 1898 when Nikola Tesladiscovered the possibility of controlling motors using radiofrequencies. Drones are mainly used in spying, aerial photography,military operations, and drug smuggling among others. This researchwill provide a historical timeline explaining how drones weredeveloped and advanced. It will also incorporate a discussion on someof the ethical considerations associated with the UAVs technologybased deontology and teleology approaches. Additionally, it will lookat social and cultural impacts and highlight some of the existingcontroversies surrounding drone usage.
Keywords: Drone technology, innovation, surveillance, ethicalconsiderations, and environmental protection.
Historical Timeline 3
Analysis of Impacts of the Drone Technology on Society 6
Social effects 6
Effects on Culture 7
Political effects 9
Economic impacts 10
Environmental impacts 11
Ethical considerations 12
Oneof the current controversies surrounding drone usage has been onwhether they cause more harm than benefits for the human population.Those opposed to its adoption state that the machines interfere withprivacy and that they cause noise pollution by flying at a lowaltitude below what is required by FAA. Those in support of theequipment usage, prefer it because it can be used to accomplishdifferent tasks such as in entertainment and sending products tocustomers. Additionally, when they have been used appropriately inthe military, they tend to be efficient at gathering information thatcan help avert deadly attack as the armed forces can dismantle theterror groups. Drones efficiency is determined by the quality ofsensory machines that are installed. These devices are selecteddepending on the purpose for which each of the UAV has beenconstructed to achieve. For an instant, surveillance drone are fittedwith high definition cameras and the GPS system that give them thecapability to capture live events and find direction (Sandbrook(2015). It is, therefore, evident that the application of UAVs isethical and thus justified because its benefits outweigh thedisadvantages.
Theprocess of developing drones can be traced back to 1898 when thefirst unmanned small board was displayed in Madison Square Garden.This boat was made by an inventor named Nikola Tesla, who introduceda significant change in the direction of verbal commands (Dillow,2014). Tesla proposed a new idea that could help scientists use radiofrequencies to turn the motors off and on. Another significantbreakthrough was made in 1940 when Reginald Denny, a British actor,sold about 15,000 target drones that were controlled by radiofrequencies to the military (Dillow, 2014). The development of thesedrones was based on the ideas that were used to build the unmannedboat. The UAVs were used to train military officers during the SecondWorld War II.
Someof the respected personalities who made significant impact in thediscovery and advancement of drones are as indicated below:
Abreakthrough in the application of drones in the military operationswas made in the year 1943. During this year, the German armed forceslifted an FX-1400 bomb using a combination of four small drones(Dillow, 2014). The military was able to control all the dronesremotely using radio frequencies. This breakthrough was followed bythe establishment of an assembly line in 1944 (Dillow, 2014). Thewartime assembly facility was developed with the objective ofincreasing the supply of drones that could be used to enhance themilitary capacity.
Scientistsmanaged to produce small transistors that helped them reduce the costas well as the weight of the drones in the 1960s (Dillow, 2014). Thisdiscovery increased enthusiasm and proliferation of radio controlledproducts in the market. Israel applied the drone technology in 1982to identify Syria`s anti-aircraft facilities. The country used aswarm of drones to reveal the precise location of machinery thatSyria used to bring down war crafts. The success of Israel’smission introduced the idea of the application of unmanned vehiclesto conduct security surveillance in high-risk areas since thistechnology could reduce the number of fatalities in case of anattack. The U.S. developed a more comprehensive and the most populardrone referred to as MQ-1 Predator in 1995 (Dillow, 2014). This modelof the drone has been used in many war-torn areas, includingAfghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, and Libya among others. Thedrone was designed with the objective of facilitating anti-terroristoperations. Its application was intensified after the September 2011terror attack in the U.S.
Thescientists developed another version of a drone that could be usedfor the entertainment purposes in 2010. The UAV was referred to asthe AR Drone, and it was controlled using smartphones (Dillow, 2014).The AR was launched in Los Angeles, and its control was accomplishedusing iOS applications. Its users were able to engage in single gamesand combat simulations. The AR was fitted with an airframe and asensor that increased the ease of flight. Although the initialintention of developing the AR drone was to allow users to engage inentertaining activities, the discoveries made in the process couldalso be applied in enhancing the efficiency of all types of unmannedaerial vehicles.
Thescope of the application of drones was expanded in 2013 when Amazonlaunched a project that could help the online retail company sendproducts to their customers using unmanned vehicles. Amazon`s CEO,Jeff Bezos, stated that delivery drones could assist the company toenhance efficiency be reducing the cost and duration it takes forproducts to reach customers (Dillow, 2014). Currently, drones areused to accomplish multiple purposes, in spite of the fact thatinitial researchers were motivated by the need to increase thecompetitiveness of the military operations.
Analysisof Impacts of the Drone Technology on SocietySocialeffects
Thesocial implications of the application of drones in differentoperations can be negative or positive. The drone technology hasthree major positive impacts. First, it enhances the level of safetybecause it does not put the life of pilots or operators at risk. Thisbenefit is enjoyed during the military operations since the dronesare not manned by onboard pilots (Sandbrook, 2015). Moreover, dronesfacilitate security surveillance that enhances the safety of thetarget regions since enemies can be detected before they attack thecommunity.
Secondly,the sense of security that is brought about by drone technologyincreases the psychological well-being of the society. Additionally,a study has shown that jurisdictions that use drones to gather datacan formulate and enforce rules better than those that rely ontraditional methods (Sandbrook, 2015). For example, departments thatapply the UAVs to monitor forests that are community-based collectaccurate data that assure members of the society that theirenvironment is secure. The accuracy associated with the data thatthey use to make decisions gives them an upper hand and the capacityto challenge any false claims made by organizations that rely onconventional methods.
Third,the application of the drone technology helps the members of thesociety gain a deeper understanding of the issues that affect them.For an instant, conservation agencies that can use the dronetechnology to collect data help the society access high-resolutionimages that are up-to-date (Sandbrook, 2015). This technology hasenabled the scientists to counter the wrong narratives held by thesociety regarding their surrounds.
Althoughmany scientists have supported the drone technology, its applicationis associated with two negative social effects. It results in theviolation of the right of the members of the society to enjoyprivacy. It is estimated that over 75 % and 58 % of the U.K. citizensand Australians, respectively feel that the utilization of UAVs intheir areas infringe their rights to enjoy privacy (Sandbrook, 2015).The second negative social effect is a decrease in the level of datasecurity. The type of data that is collected by drones is stored inelectronic form. Electronic data is more accessible to hackers thanthe paper, which is an indication of insecurity that is associatedwith the application of UAVs.
Asis always the case with new technologies, the effects of drones onculture has been tremendous. Its ability to monitor humaninteractions has significantly affected how people associate witheach other for fear of being seen engaging in outlawed activities. Inthe military for instance, it has positively affected their culturesin that in modern combats, they are continually shifting from the useof jet fighters that are operated by men to UAVs that are run usingcomputers from the ground. By adopting the “drone culture” armedforces are able to enhance efficiency in their operations andminimize the number of casualties (Global Justice Clinic, 2012).
Aresearch conducted in Pakistan indicated that the application ofunmanned vehicles in Pakistan has denied the people of FATA theopportunity to organize cultural gatherings due to the fear of beingattacked. Although the objective of applying this technology has beento reduce the acts of terrorism, previous incidents have confirmedthat drones drop bombs to civilians who gather for social as well ascultural events (GJC, 2012). By denying the people of FATA theopportunity to hold meetings for a number of years, some culturalpractices might be forgotten.
Apartfrom the United States, another country that has begun to use dronesin non-military operations is China. In both of these countries, thetechnology is slowly revolutionizing human interactions. In theUnited States for instance, it is increasingly being adopted in thefilming industry as is seen in aerial photography. In mass media,though expensive, the technology is used to capture sophisticatedimages especially in areas that are termed as dangerous and perilousfor ordinary human being. As a result, the film industry has beenmore efficient and able to capture every moment. Additionally, thoughin rare occasions, drone technology has also been used to send giftsuch as love letters and wine to loved ones. In this case, it isevident that drone aircraft has promoted the culture of love amongpeople. As time progresses, it is evident that drone aircrafttechnology will penetrate deep into various cultures such as sportsand education.
Theincrease in the popularity of unmanned aerial vehicles has forcedpoliticians (including the legislators) to focus their attention onthe development of laws that will prevent the abuse of the newtechnology. The ongoing political debates are motivated by studiesindicating that uncontrolled commercial and personal use of dronescould result in negative effects (Smith, 2015). These publicsentiments have resulted in the introduction of numerous bills thatseek to regulate the production as well as the application UAVs. Itis estimated that about 40 states developed bills that focused on thecontrol of drones between the 2013 and 2014 (Smith, 2015).
Otherstudies have shown that the new technology has the capacity to damagethe diplomatic relations between different countries. This effect hasbeen confirmed by a study showing that the widespread application ofthe unmanned vehicles in Pakistan increased the anti-U.S. sentimentsand reduced the strength of the diplomatic ties (Wheeler, 2016).These sentiments increased the number of terror attacks targeting theU.S. citizens and organizations. Additionally, non-profitorganizations such as Electronic Frontier Foundation and ElectronicPrivacy Information Center has spearheaded the enactment of severalpolicies that are aimed at ensuring that right to confidentialitythat every American is bestowed in the Constitution is granted.
Theanalysis of the economic impacts of drones has yielded mixedreactions, some researchers hold that the technology is beneficialwhile others believe that it is not cost effective. The huge amountof money invested in the development and deployment of the technologystimulate the national economy in different ways. For example, theestimated $ 94 billion that the world will spent in the developmentof the drone technology by the year 2021 will stimulate the globaleconomy by increasing employment and investment opportunities (Boyle,2013). However, the economic benefits associated with an increase inthe rate of investment and job creation will be enjoyed in countriesthat are able to develop the drones. This suggests developingcountries will have deficit of trade because they will be forced toimport drones from developed nations. However, the benefit of such aninitiative is that they will be able to enhance the level of securityin their countries and thus enabling them to attract many investorsand tourists. These indirect economic benefits of investing in thedrone technology will enhance the well-being of the society.
Severalstakeholders have tried to conduct the cost-benefit analysis ofdrones, with the objective of determining whether they are economicalor not. The analysis conducted by Boyle (2013) indicated that asingle drone that has the capacity to engage in the militaryoperations cost about $ 10.5 million compared to the F-22 jet fighterwith similar capabilities that goes for $ 155 million. This dataindicates that a country can buy about 14 drones, instead ofpurchasing one jet-fighter, which is an indication of thecost-effectiveness of the new technology. The major criticism of thisapproach has been that countries such as the United States have notgotten the value of the money invested in this technology.
Thediscovery of the drones has made a significant breakthrough inhelping stakeholders in the environmental conservation sector managechanges in their surrounds. According to Smith (2015) drones canenhance environment protection by facilitating the monitoringactivities, such as fire mapping, forest health forecasting, and airquality assessment functions. Scientists have managed to developeco-drones that are installed with modern equipment that allow thestakeholders in the environmental management sector collect accurateand up-to-date information (Smith, 2015). The drones have replacedtraditional tools that are less reliable and expensive to use, thusenhancing the process of monitoring changes in the environment. Theeffectiveness of drones in facilitating the environmental protectionhas been confirmed in Brazil, where the government invested about $350 million in the purchase of drones used to prevent illegal loggingin the Amazon forest (Smith, 2015). The cost effectiveness ofapplying the new technology is associated with the fact that a singledrone can monitor a large area that would require hundreds ofsecurity officers.
Asignificant section of the population have also argued that droneshave damaging effects on the environment, especially when they areused to accomplish military operations. Drone strikes are associatedwith the release of munitions that damage the environment. Theyrelease dangerous chemicals (such as trichloroethylene and benzene)that affect human health, wildlife, and agricultural practices(Smith, 2015).
Somedrones also scare away animals, thus disrupting the ecosystem. Incountries such as Afghanistan and Syria where there have beennumerous drone attacks, the region’s topography has beensignificantly damaged and the once beautiful town is now made ofdestroyed structures.
Theadoption of drone technology is justified using both deontology orteleology ethical approaches. In deontology approach for instance,actions tend to be justified because they are right or wrong and notbased on the resultant impacts. The approach emphasizes onindividual’s duty and obligations towards each other, theenvironment and all living things. Additionally, deontology teachesabout the essence of acting in good faith and treating others thesame way that anyone would have wished to be treated. In the case ofusage of drones, they have been shown to be more effective thantraditional types of war jets because they minimize the number offatalities and the risk of harming innocent civilians (Smith, 2015).The reduction in damage is achieved when unmanned aerial vehicles areused by highly competent personnel. In addition, the accuracy of thecameras installed in the drones helps the military officers to focusand attack the target areas, thus minimizing the geographical areathat is affected. In this case, the ethical aspect is derived fromthe fact that weapons do not disappear because people dislike them,but human beings need to prevent the occurrence of conflicts andresolve those that have already started within the shortest time andwith a minimum number of casualties.
Consequently,it is also evident that drone usage is justified based on teleologyapproach because the theory emphasizes that actions should beresult-oriented. Teleology approaches deals with the consequences ofcertain actions, and it borrows heavily from past experiences to makea conclusion about the future. Unlike in deontology where actionsshould not be based on selfish desires, in teleology, one isjustified to engage in certain activities provided the results areagreeable to a person. When this is applied to the case of droneusage, the discovery of the aerial vehicles that do not requirepilots to be onboard has helped organizations become more responsibleand invest in sustainable development. The technology has empoweredorganizations to monitor changes in the environment and adjust theiroperations to counter any cases of pollution (Smith, 2015). Theethical aspect is indicated by the fact the drones have increased thecapacity of the stakeholders in the environmental protection sectorsto collect accurate data that help them respond to unfavorablechanges in a prompt way. Therefore, the technology has made thesociety more responsible and a better custodian of its environment.It is thus ethically justifiable for countries and organizations touse a drone in military operations, aerial photography and otheractivities that they find suitable.
Thoseopposed to drone usage have often given several claims to defendtheir stand. According to them, drones violate the people`s right toenjoy privacy. This type of complaint has been raised by people andcommunities that have been affected by unwarranted surveillance. Inmost cases, security agencies send drones to gather intelligencewithout the knowledge of the residents. Aerial images, as well as thedata that are collected against the wish of the people, often violatetheir rights to privacy (Sandbrook, 2015). The technology has alsobeen abused by private media houses that gather information aboutprivate property owners. Also, the fact that the data that iscollected using the drones can be easily accessed by hackers suggeststhat the new technology has increased the chances of losing privacy.This data may be used for commercial or criminal purposes once itgets into the hands of the hackers, which raises an ethical issueregarding the application of the unmanned vehicles. Additionally,since the Federal Aviation Administration requires operators to flytheir drones at low altitude to minimize accidents, this requirementhas been associated with noise pollution that disrupts the wildlifein Forests and national parks as well as the people living in theareas where the UAVs are used (Smith, 2015).
Theapplication of UAVs is ethical and thus justified because itsbenefits outweigh the disadvantages. It results in a significantimprovement in environmental protection and the level of security ina world that is facing uncountable terror threats. Drones can be usedto accomplish different goals (including entertainment and sendingproducts to customers), but their application in environmentalprotection and security projects have made a direct impact on humanlife. Although drones are used in the military operations to gatherinformation that results in deadly attacks as the armed forces try todismantle the terror groups, it can be concluded that the applicationof UAVs is ethical because they reduce the risk of harming innocentcivilians. In addition, environmental conservation agencies believethat UAVs cause noise pollution by flying at a low altitude asrequired by FAA. However, this technology brings more benefit byhelping the stakeholders in the environmental conservation sector toconduct real-time monitoring of their surroundings. The technologyenables them to take measures that reduce the rate environmentaldegradation. From the historical timeline, it is evident thatscientists have been investing time and other resources, with theobjective of enhancing the efficiency of drones. The future droneswill be more accurate and help security, as well as the environmentalconservation bodies, monitor events in real-time. It is more likelyto be cost effective to apply UAVs in countering terror threats andminimizing environmental pollution. However, human beings willcontinue losing their right to enjoy privacy due to the intrusion oftheir lives by drones used for surveillance purposes.
Boyle,J. (2013). The costs and consequences of drone warfare. InternationalAffairs,89 (1), 1-29.
Dillow,C. (2014). A brief history of drones. Fortune.Retrieved September 16, 2016, from<http://fortune.com/2014/10/09/a-brief-history-of-drones/>
GlobalJustice Clinic (2012). Livingunder Drones: Death, injury, and trauma to civilians from U.S. dronepractices in Pakistan.New York, NY: New York University School of Law.
Sandbrook,C. (2015). The social implications of using drones for biodiversityconservation. AmbioJournal of Human Environment,44 (4), 636-647.
Smith,W. (2015). Drone technology: Benefits, risks, and legalconsiderations. SeattleJournal of Environmental Law,5 (1), 292-302.
Wheeler,N. (2016). The political effects of unmanned aerial vehicles onconflicts and cooperation within and between states. PCCSR.Retrieved September 20, 2016, fromhttp://www.paccsresearch.org.uk/political-effects-unmanned-aerial-vehicles-uavs-conflict-cooperation-within-states/